Winter’s Here for Better or Worse

Its been a while… at first I was hoping to go back up to cascade a few more times get photos and put up something about how the season ended. For me the season ended almost a month ago now because of other events, work, and school. Now I might be able to get up there the weekend after next maybe, but other than that it’s over for me until the spring.

Fall coming to Lava lake

A few weeks ago Ryan and I took a Friday afternoon to just walk around up in the boulder field. I took photos and GPS points for every boulder that we found. It was a little disappointing to say the least, but there are still some gems up there waiting to be climbed.  Erik has still been venturing up to Cascade Creek despite the weather and been making the best of probably the shortest “good weather” climbing season for an area around. I wish I could go just to try the protein project some more but that will have to wait…

The upper talus field from the trail

Anyone for a nice highball?

Cool features are still out there!

One of the better boulders we found

I’ve never been super inspired or really all that enthused with doing first ascents (FAs) like some people seem to be. To me it seems just like every other new ascent to you; that is it’s always the first time you’ve climbed any particular piece of rock, not matter if anyone else has ever done it or not. In all the routes I’ve done very few have sat in my mind with the weight that the protein project has. The Raven in Squaw Creek, Straw Man at the Cube, The Throne in Lander, and maybe Social Outcast in Rumney are really the only routes I can think of that really stayed on my mind and seemingly called out to me, as if they needed to be climbed. The protein project is one of those routes, I’m not sure if its because it still awaits a FA or if its just that kind of route that’s so good I desperately want to climb it. I really hope its not just because I could maybe get the FA of it, but saying that that doesn’t have anything to do with it is just lying to myself, and I know that, so all I can do is train to be good enough to climb it next season if its still an FA or not I’ll be endlessly psyched. It represents the hardest movement I’ve ever tried rock climbing, and that means something to me because it is all crimps, which I’m strongest at, over all other styles of climbing.

Due to the fact that I can’t really go up to cascade anymore I’ve been opting to going sport climbing again. I know this seems predictable but the reality is more that it is easy than it’s what I really want to do right now. The first time it snowed in Bozeman this fall, it only made me want to go climbing more. Given the weather and my new found bouldering power I decided to hop on Eight Seconds in Bear Canyon again. This wasn’t the easy decision it sounds like it was, I have a kind of offsetting history with this route… Two years ago I tried it for the first time, it was the first 5.13d I ever tried. The crux revolves around a very shoulder intensive body position change so that you can do a heel-hand match and exit the crux. I tried the move over and over hoping to learn how to do it so that I could finish the climb because the rest of it is easy by comparison.

I can’t say exactly what caused what next, but I hurt my shoulder by attempting the move so many times in isolation. It may have been that my posture was so bad back then that it was just the straw that broke the camels back or that I actually partially tore my biceps tendon in the process, I’ll never know. I took a few days off and kept going as if nothing was different. Little did I know that in January, scarcely 4 months later I would end up in the urgent care office after a simple stretch that, done incorrectly, caused immense pain. I went to physical therapy for the next 6 months or more just working on postural muscles and muscle memory to keep me in a better posture.

I can’t say I’m fully healed, or that I’m pain free. In the last year I’ve learned that I’ll have to live with my injury for the rest of my life simply due to the nature of climbing and the fact that I can’t stop climbing. Eight Seconds, just the name inspires fear in me just like an actual bull ride should I guess. Logically I know eight seconds (the approximate time you have to hold onto the crux crimp) is hardly enough time to re-injure my shoulder again, but the thought of being in pain and unable to climb for weeks at a time scares the living crap out of me.

So when we hiked into Bear Canyon that day and it was snowing while in the high 30s, I had serious doubts I would even try the route that day. Ryan wanted to warm up on the 5.9 Robin, both of us froze our hands and feet after climbing. Next we moved onto Ignition, the classic 5.11a of the area. I climbed it twice because the first time I froze my hands again, but my feet felt much better. The second time I stepped up to climb I felt a lot better, my hands were cold but not numb by the end. I kind of just put the draws up on the first three bolts before I really decided I wanted to try Eight Seconds.

Soon enough I was walking myself move by move through the route. My first go of the day I stuck the crux crimp from the ground, locked it in, and got my heel up only to fall at what I had thought to be an easy exit move. No way! I thought and kept going up the arete remembering how to do each move and putting up the draws. Excited at how well I had climbed and how warm I felt while climbing I talked myself into thinking I could do it that day!

We turned out not to be the only ones crazy enough to climb while it was snowing and an audience soon appeared at the Ignition ledge waiting to try its namesake route. Despite my ‘prowess’ at climbing in front of a crowd during comps, I’ve never really liked the same atmosphere at the crag. It’s straight up stressful having a bunch of people who think you can’t fail and vocally say so while you try something that you know you can barely do. My next few attempts I got to the same move and failed lowering down every time a little bit colder and more unable to return my body temperature to a normal level even with my puffy on. The last time I hopped on I said it was going to be my last for the day. On the very edge of inescapable hypothermia I set out, finally catching the bump move and fought my way to the top, literally.

When I got to the last crux, navigating an awkward arete that guards the chains my hands were completely numb and I noticed I physically couldn’t close my hands as well as I normally can. Somehow I didn’t fall, but when I took my hand off to pull up rope to clip the chains but I almost fell off my hands were so numb and pumped. I yelled down “I can’t clip, I have to top it out Ryan!” and so I did, frantically kicking my way over the lip to safety. Sitting on the top I pushed out the shouts of congratulations and stared at the sun starting to set though the clouds. It was one of the better feelings I’ve had after finishing a project for a long time, probably similar to when I did my first 13a in a gym (that sounds so lame reading it, but its true) the euphoria overcame me for a bit and I couldn’t help but smile for the rest of the day and into the next.

Now that winter’s here in full force it’s time to buckle down for comp season: FGD 12, The Rocky Comp, Billings and the annual trip to Joe’s are just around the corner, and I can’t wait. Comps bring out the best in me, because they give me something that I can never beat regardless of the results. I the mean time I know I’ll be doing the best I can to get stronger so that maybe next time I can beat the competition itself, even though I know that’s impossible.

I can’t wait to walk up this trail again

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This entry was posted in Billings, Bouldering, Cascade Creek, Competitions, Injury, Joe's Valley, Spire Climbing Center, Spokane, Steep World, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

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